Postgraduate epidemiology: Study options explained

Epidemiology allows us to measure and track the spread of diseases. With a postgraduate qualification, you can bolster your bio-statistical acumen and grow in this profession.
James Davis
James Davis
Team PostgradAustralia
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Epidemiologists track the growth and spread of illnesses throughout societies. They collect and analyse population data to make health and safety assessments. Postgraduate study allows students to further their understanding or enter the field, providing supplementary knowledge of statistics, diseases, health promotion and more dependent on their career aspirations. This article will cover some of the most common avenues of postgraduate study, complete with entry requirements and application assistance.

Graduate certificates and diplomas

These qualifications are generally succinct offerings, taking six months and one year full time respectively, or one year and two years part. Unlike many other disciplines where graduate certificates and diplomas allow current professionals to specialise, these are predominantly for students of other disciplines. They feature units in introductory epidemiology, basic bio-statistical methods, clinical epidemiology, data management, health systems and more.

There are a great deal of disciplines you can come from to be eligible for an epidemiology program at this level. Using the University of Queensland’s graduate diploma as an example, the following are just some of the places you can come from:

  • Behavioural and social sciences like sociology, psychology or counselling
  • Biomedical sciences
  • Biostatistics
  • Dentistry
  • Development studies
  • Environmental health
  • Exercise and sport science
  • Food science
  • Health economics
  • Nursing
  • Nutrition
  • Occupational health and safety
  • Occupational therapy
  • Pharmacy
  • Physiotherapy

It’s possible to argue your case to the faculty if your specific undergraduate qualifications not on this list or you’re unsure if it’ll be suitable. However, when applying for these courses, we highly recommend you check with a quick email or phone call; you might be surprised at what they accept. It’s possible to enter via practically any of the health sciences or sciences in general. Better yet, there usually isn’t any GPA requirement for entering any of these. So, if you ring up the faculty and they say your undergraduate degree was in an approved discipline, you’re in the door!

Master’s degrees

These are a great way of getting employed consulting with governments and research institutions. They generally take two years of full time study to complete or four years part time, but some entry methods from some institutions allow for earlier completion. They’re accessible in a similar manner to graduate certificates and diplomas, providing fundamental units in the basics of epidemiology and statistical methods. You’ll then be required to undergo a dissertation regarding a relevant topic of your choice. This is distinct from a thesis you may find yourself writing for a research master; it’s much shorter and doesn’t consume the whole length of the degree.

As we alluded to, there are often multiple methods of entry. If you’re coming from a completely unrelated discipline, you can expect your degree to take one and a half to two years full time. Holding a bachelor’s degree in a cognate discipline can bring this down to one and a half and a completely relevant qualification (such as a graduate certificate or diploma in epidemiology) can cut this all the way down to one year. We’d highly recommend going for a graduate diploma or certificate in this discipline if a master’s degree interests you, as you can often get significant credit for this study toward the master’s. Furthermore, if there’s a GPA requirement on your intended course, you can even circumvent it if you’re coming from a relevant postgraduate qualification. So, if you’re worried about your grades from previous study not being good enough, a graduate certificate or diploma can be a great way into any of these master’s programs that’s just as valid.

Hopefully this article has given you a better idea of what’s available in epidemiology at the postgraduate level. As you can see, it’s incredibly friendly to novices and can accomodate for any level of knowledge. If you’re familiar with all the fundamentals, you can skip all the fundamental work. So, no matter where you choose to go with your epidemiology qualification and whatever level of experience you’re coming from, we wish you well!